The Rock wanted to clinch first place in the East last week, but Matt Vinc had other ideas. Rochester’s 2013 season hasn’t gone they way they wanted to, I’m sure, but they are by no means out of the race and with Vinc in net, the Knighthawks are no pushovers. In Sunday’s rematch, the Rock didn’t exactly solve Vinc – he still only allowed 10 goals – but they certainly had more success in preventing the Knighthawks forwards from scoring. I wouldn’t say Nick Rose was outstanding, though he was solid, but the Rock defense played very well. In particular I saw outstanding defensive plays from Mike Hobbins, Stephen Hoar, Damon Edwards, Jesse Gamble, and Kyle Belton – and those are just the ones I made mental notes of.
The game started off with some good and bad news. Good news: Colin Doyle’s wife is in labour! Child #3 is on the way! Bad news: Colin has this crazy “I love my family” thing going, so he left to be with his wife – which is totally the right thing to do, I say as my wife reads this over my shoulder. Seriously, congratulations to the Doyle family and welcome to the world, young baby Doyle.
Doyle is having an outstanding season so his loss was going to be noticed. But as good teams do, everyone else stepped up when one of the top players is out. Josh Sanderson was acting captain and also returned to his old post of anchoring the offense along with Garrett Billings. Billings had 6 points – a pretty good total for most other players, but Billings’ second-lowest of the season (he had 4 games with 4 points). Kasey Beirnes also had a good game, also with 6 points, and continues his role as unsung hero of the Rock. If asked to name the offensive stars of the team, Beirnes’ name doesn’t come to mind quite as quickly as Billings, Doyle, Sanderson, or Leblanc, but if you ask Troy Cordingley, Terry Sanderson, or Colin Doyle about him, they can’t say enough good things about his play, and many Rock fans know him as one of the hardest working forwards out there. I asked this philosophical question a few years ago about Shawn Williams and it seems to apply to Beirnes as well – if everyone thinks of you as an underrated player, are you?
As I said before, the Rock defense was excellent. Not only did they play well as a unit, there were some great individual efforts as well. Mike Hobbins was covering Dan Dawson in the first quarter and just wouldn’t let him get open to take a shot or even pass. When the shot clock buzzer sounded, Dawson dropped the ball and was so frustrated he grabbed Hobbins, threw him to the floor, and stormed off to his bench. The Knighthawks defense was also solid, though I wish they’d use B. Self and S. Self on the jerseys instead of just Self so I’d know who to credit for a particular play in which someone (Beirnes?) was basically mashed into the end boards and held there until the shot clock expired. I think it was Scott (since Brad is more of a transition guy), who was a nice little pickup for the Knighthawks considering they gave up Kedoh Hill from their practice roster for him.
Only one game left in the Rock season, a game in Philly to try and clinch top spot in the league and home floor throughout the playoffs. The Knighthawks, on the other hand, have three games left – a nasty Alberta doubleheader against the Roughnecks and Rush, and then the season finale against Buffalo.
Just a couple of other game notes:
- In the second half, a Knighthawks goal was disallowed (I think – might have been a Rock goal), and Rochester coach Mike Hasen wanted to challenge the call. He threw the challenge flag – and hit the referee square in the chest. The ref stopped and glared directly at Hasen for a full ten seconds before continuing to the officials area. I was watching the ref and not Hasen, so I don’t know what he was doing. NLL Rule 17.89 says that if the coach attempts to hit the ref with the flag, the team gets an unsportsmanlike minor and the coach gets a game misconduct. It also says that the ref has discretion to decide whether the throw was intentional or not. There was no penalty, so presumably the ref decided it was accidental. Oddly, Hasen did not throw the flag directly away from the bench, or closer to mid-floor as coaches generally do, he threw it in the direction of the net, which was also where the ref was. Perhaps he was trying to throw it near the ref, to make sure he was aware that he was challenging the call, and the throw was more accurate than he intended.
- The Rock’s anthem singer also works game ops for the team, and was picking up balls during the halftime shooting contest. I was worried that a ball might hit him and break him in half – he looks about 6-foot-1 and 120 pounds. For a skinny little guy, he has one hell of a powerful voice though.